Military Suicides Decline, But Continued Failures Hold Lessons For Future Wars

Molly O'Toole | Defense One | November 23, 2014

Wayne Telford did not lose his daughter on any of her four deployments over 17 years of service in the Air Force—not in Kuwait, not for two tours at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and not during her last, to Sather Air Base near Baghdad International Airport, just before the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011. Brooke Leigh Caffrey, a tech sergeant three years shy of full retirement, committed suicide on Jan. 5, 2012, on leave at her home in Arizona. She was 35 years old.

All across the country there are families like Wayne Telford’s. The year his daughter died was one of the worst for suicides in military the since the Pentagon started closely tracking the data in 2002. In 2012, the Defense Department reported 522 service member suicides: 320 suicides among active-duty service members across the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy, at a suicide rate of 22.7 percent per 100,000; 72 Reserves suicides and 130 National Guard suicides. Eight hundred and sixty-nine service members attempted suicide at least once.

According to data obtained by Defense One, 475 service members committed suicide last year—47 fewer than in 2012. Among active-duty troops across the four branches, 255 service members committed suicide, at a decreased rate of 18.7 percent per 100,000. But 86 Reservists and 134 National Guard committed suicide, up from the year prior...